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Why these Parkdale neighbours are at odds over a proposed bike route | CBC News



A new west-end Toronto biking route is pitting some in the city’s Parkdale neighbourhood against each other. 

The city says the West Parkdale Cycling Connection, which will run from The Queensway to Brock Avenue, is meant to connect a gap in the biking network and create safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians.

But while some residents welcome the project, others are concerned about rerouted traffic.

“It is a pain in the ass just for this block of people here,” resident Robyn Burgess told CBC Toronto. “But it’s way less extreme than having someone die on this street. And already I know of two people who have been hit by oncoming cars.”

This is the proposed route of the West Parkdale Cycling Connection. The staff report goes in front of city council at the end of June. (Duk Han Lee/CBC )

Burgess’s neighbour, Gail Shillingford, agrees.

“We’d love bike lanes everywhere, but it can’t be at the cost of something else,” Shillingford said. “And the something else is the cost of safe, pedestrian movement through our neighbourhood.”

Coun. Gord Perks, who represents Parkdale-High Park, says the project is necessary because it gives people an alternative to driving in traffic and makes roads safer.

But a public consultation report last month notes, “Overall, residents and interest groups in the project area are divided over their support for the project.”

Concerns over traffic increase in school zone 

One of the main criticisms of the proposal is that it lays out plans to create a one-way portion of MacDonnell Avenue, forcing cars to turn onto Fern Avenue. 

Some residents say that’s not just a nuisance because it creates more traffic on their street. They say it presents a safety risk because it puts more cars into a school zone. 

“It makes me worried,” said resident Véronique Claassen, whose son attends Fern Avenue Public School. “We already worry about our son crossing.”

In an email to Claassen, seen by CBC News, senior policy advisor Clive Scott, who works in Perks’s office said, “This change is not anticipated to increase traffic infiltration near Fern Avenue Public School… Any vehicles that do continue infiltrating into the neighbourhood from Lansdowne Avenue are expected to turn at Sorauren Avenue rather than continuing westbound past the school.”

A black car passes by a public school.
Some residents worry rerouted traffic will try to speed by Fern Avenue Public School. (Britnei Bilhete/CBC)

But Claassen says that statement ignores the fact that students cross Sorauren Avenue to get to school on the opposite side. 

“We’re not automatically against bike lanes,” she said. “We’re saying, ‘Hold on, can we just slow down the process and study this a little more to make sure that my kid walking to school is going to be safe?'”

Traffic studies and public consultations 

The city’s manager of cycling and pedestrian safety, Becky Katz, said her team collected traffic data in the area and spent time in the neighbourhood. But she says she understands why some are worried. 

“I think community members are right in having concerns about unintended consequences. And that’s why we continue to, invest in after-studies.”

Katz says if and when the West Parkdale Cycling Connection is created, the city would continue to monitor the area for up to 18 months and would make any necessary changes. 

A blond woman wearing sunglass looks past her porch, onto a street.
Residents that live in a bustling neighbourhood have opposing views on the proposed West Parkdale Cycling Connection. Robyn Burgess says she voted in favour of the bike routes, unlike some of her neighbours. (Ivan Arsovski/CBC)

She also added that the project has been adjusted based on community feedback. But some residents say they’re not confident in the work done in the area after they attended public consultations.

“It was clear that they just didn’t understand enough of the neighbourhood,” said resident Evan Bond. “It’s really frustrating.”

Residents who criticized some parts of the project said they did welcome traffic-calming features like new traffic lights, stop signs and speed bumps.

The staff report goes in front of the city council at the end of June. If it gets the green light, the goal is to have the bike lanes in place by August.

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